When a plaintiff files a lawsuit in state court, an opposing party may try to remove the case to federal court. Lawyers for Walmart are trying to do this in one woman's slip-and-fall case; KFC's lawyers did it in another. But why?
As the above cases show, when parties are in the throes of a lawsuit, one of the initial battles between the parties is over venue.
Here are a few reasons why lawyers try to remove injury cases to federal court:
- They're perceived to be friendlier to defendants. Some attorneys go to great lengths to try to pick the court that will be most favorable for their lawsuit. This practice is called forum shopping. Many defense attorneys believe that federal court judges may be more forgiving than state court judges. Similarly, jury panels also differ in views greatly based on whether it's a state or federal court.
- Fear of large jury awards. Even with a damages cap, jury awards can add up to a pretty penny. Several counties across the country have reputations for awarding plaintiffs high jury verdicts. Defense attorneys in those areas often try to remove cases to the federal court system -- where the jury is pulled from a larger (less vindictive) geographic area -- in hopes that the jury ultimately hearing the case will not be so generous in awarding damages.
- Greater familiarity with the federal court system. If removal to a federal court is successful, the case will proceed as usual, but within the federal system -- which means federal procedural rules will apply. This is significant to lawyers who defend large companies in multi-state actions in federal court, and aren't as well-versed in state procedural rules.
- Less familiarity with the federal court system. On the flipside of the previous reason is a more sinister strategic move: Defendants' lawyers often push for removal to disorient the plaintiff's attorney. Opposing counsel can gain a "home court"-esque advantage when the local plaintiff's attorney isn't familiar with federal procedural rules, judges and/or the jury selection system.
- Convenience. Cases in federal court generally move at a quicker pace than in state court, which can potentially save time and money. In addition, federal courts have discovery rules that many attorneys believe are cost-effective and less stressful. Sometimes, a change of venue is just a matter of convenience.
For more guidance about how removal to federal court may affect your case, you'll want to consult an experienced personal injury attorney near you.